Finding Work Through Recruiters and Recruiting Agencies, with Steve Potestio

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Transcript

Mac Prichard:

Welcome to Find Your Dream Job. We’re the podcast that helps you get hired and have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host. I’m the publisher of Mac’s List. On today’s show, we’re discussing how to work with an executive recruiter.

Looking for a job is hard work. You know that. We’ve all been there. Before you set on to your first application or you go to an interview, you need to confirm your career goals, and you have to update your online profiles. You need to network. You need to do lots and lots of networking.

Again, that’s a lot of hard work. Not surprisingly, many of us, including me, have wondered, “Isn’t there another way–an easier way–that lets you cut to the front of the application line?” What if you could get in front of a recruiter, somebody who is paid to find great employees? Like a fairy godmother, couldn’t a recruiter make your wish for a dream job come true, and by doing so save you a lot of time and effort?

Recruiters can make a big difference in your job search, but they can’t do it all. This week, we’re talking to a recruiter, Steve Potestio. He’s one of the best in the business. He works with digital firms and writers, graphic designers, and other creative workers all across the country. Steve is going to share with us what recruiters can do and what they can’t do, and how you can make the most of that experience.

First, let’s check in with the Mac’s List team. Joining me as always in our downtown studio here in Portland, Oregon are Ben Forstag, our management director, and Cecilia Bianco, our community manager. Hello Ben and Cecilia.

Cecilia Bianco:

Hi Mac, how are you?

Ben Forstag:

Hi Mac.

Mac Prichard:

Good, I’m doing well. Confess, have you had that fantasy that the phone is going to ring one day, and it will be a recruiter offering you your dream job?

Ben Forstag:

During my last unemployment stint, which was about four months long, I had that fantasy every day, or that hope at least.

Mac Prichard:

How about you Cecilia?

Cecilia Bianco:

I actually really haven’t, but I’ve talked to a lot of recruiters through my job at Mac’s List, and I think it’s a dream a lot of people have.

Mac Prichard:

There is real value when working with a recruiter. They can make a huge difference, but like anything, you don’t want to rely in just one strategy alone. I’ve never actually been approached by a recruiter about a job, though I have been contacted by different recruiters looking for candidates. Cecilia, you’re out there in the community a lot. What’s been your experience working with recruiters?

Cecilia Bianco:

They’re always just looking for it seems very specific people to their agency. Anytime I get an email from one of them, they have almost an exact person in mind with certain experience.

Mac Prichard:

I find that too. I also find that they contact people like us, because they’re looking for recommendations about trusted candidates, people who fit that criteria. Even if the phone rings, and they’re not offering a job, but if it’s a recruiter at the other end of the line, I think there’s a real value in building that relationship. We’ll talk more to Steve about that later in the show.

Before we do that, let’s check in with Ben, because when it comes to online career resources, Wikipedia has nothing on Ben Forstag. Every week, he explores the internet looking for blogs, podcasts, and other tools you could use in your job search. Ben, what have you uncovered for us this week?

Ben Forstag:

Mac, given the theme of today’s show, I wanted to share two different resources that I thought might be particularly useful to anyone exploring a career in creative services, so graphic designers, writers, anyone who does creative things for a living. The first one is a blog post I found on the mashable.com website. Cecilia, I know you go to Mashable every day.

Cecilia Bianco:

Often.

Ben Forstag:

This is a site that’s about all things digital and media. It’s a great tool. This blog post comes from 2013. It’s 20 Tools to Show Off Your Portfolio. If you’re going to be working in the creative industry, that really means you need to present your work on the web so that everyone could see what you do. The online platform you use to show off your work might be just as important as the material you’re showcasing.

As you can imagine, it doesn’t matter how good the work you put on it is if your website looks dated, or if it doesn’t work. That’s going to not reflect well on you as a professional. This blog, the 20 Tools to Showcase Your Portfolio, it outlines 20 different platforms you could use to showcase your art, your writing, whatever creative output you have.

I’ll admit, I don’t have a portfolio myself. Cecilia, I know that you do. What platform do you use?

Cecilia Bianco:

I actually have a customized WordPress platform, but I think about every single journalism school student at University of Oregon all used this Cargo Collective. It’s definitely one of the easiest tools to make one.

Ben Forstag:

Mac, when you’re looking at candidates for contract work or vendors, is there a given platform that you prefer, or is it just whatever you find?

Mac Prichard:

One feature I like about LinkedIn is there is portfolio section. I don’t think it’s on your list. LinkedIn is always a stop for an employer who is checking on the candidate. In addition to the good ideas on your list, I would encourage candidates to think about using the portfolio section of LinkedIn.

Ben Forstag:

On LinkedIn, you can add projects now. I know I uploaded some magazines that I edited in my previous job there. That’s a great tool as well.

There are 20 different platforms here that they suggest. Some that are more known, some that might be new on the scene, tools like Carbonmade, Behance, Dribbble, that’s with three Bs, Dunked to Viewbook, and Cargo Collective.

Again, this is post is on Mashable. It’s 20 tools to showcase your portfolio. It’s another blog with a really long URL. We’ll include this in the show notes, or you can Google it on Mashable.

The other resource I want to share with you is a podcast I discovered recently.

Mac Prichard:

Another podcast, you’re listening to other podcasts.

Ben Forstag:

I’m cheating on the podcast. When you’re done with this podcast, when you’ve downloaded them all, and listened to them all and rated us positively, you can go check out this other podcast. It’s called the Deeply Graphic DesignCast. This is a podcast for graphic designers, web designers, and visual designers.

It’s produced by a graphic design studio in LA called The Deep End. The episodes explore different design-related topics from finding better clients to online portfolios, hot trends in design, and making sure you get paid for your work, things like that.

I’ve always had a fantasy of monetizing my hobby of painting, and so I like hearing these things on how other people are doing stuff in the creative arts. Don’t worry Mac, I’m not going anywhere. I’d get to sell a single painting in five years. Like our podcast, they answer listener questions.

The nice thing about this podcast is it’s been around since 2011, and they regularly produce episodes. They’ve got 95 episodes. It’s about one every week. It’s a great resource, a fun little podcast, entertaining. I suggest you check it out. Again, the Deeply Graphic DesignCast, and we’ll have the link to that in the show notes.

Mac Prichard:

Those are great suggestions. I didn’t know that you painted. I look forward to seeing some of your paintings one day.

Ben Forstag:

I’ll bring you over to the studio someday.

Mac Prichard:

Do you have an idea for Ben? Just write him. You can reach him at ben@macslist.org. We may share your idea on the show. Now, we want to hear from you our listeners. Let’s turn it over to Cecilia, our community manager. Cecilia, what’s the question of the week?

Cecilia Bianco:

Our question this week is, “How can I keep up with new media jobs?”

To get a new media job, the most important skill you can have is knowing how to tell a visual story. New media has largely turned into visual communication. As we all know, in this office, we’ve done presentations about this. Being able to use the tools and platforms available to tell a visual story is the key thing.

You want to be comfortable with video editing tools, even if it’s just a simple as iMovie on your Mac computer. I know Ben is a pro at iMovie. Also photo editing tools such as the Adobe suite with InDesign and Photoshop. There’s also a lot of online tools that are free and easier to manage than Adobe. Overall, the more skills and tools you master, the better off you’re going to be.

Mac and Ben, I’m sure you both have some go-to resources to keep up with new media. Do you have any favorites?

Ben Forstag:

To be honest, my resource for all thing social media are probably my teenage nieces and nephews. They know about these things well before I do certainly. I remember a few years ago when my nieces were trying to show me about Snapchat. At that time, I thought, “Well, this is the silliest thing I’ve ever seen. Why would you ever need to know this?” From what I’ve been told, this is now a platform that lots of professionals are using. I know my favorite baseball team has a Snapchat account. I know several serious journalists do Snapchat accounts. It’s a serious thing. I guess what I’m saying is I should be listening more to my nieces and nephews, take what they say seriously.

Cecilia Bianco:

Definitely, Snapchat has become important along with a lot of other platforms. With new media, there is always a new platform that people are jumping on and using. To stay up to date with those, you need to have some go-to resources beyond your nieces and nephews probably. I would suggest a few E newsletters such as the Social Media Examiner. Ben mentioned I’m a big fan of Mashable, Ink Magazine. The Forbes technology section is also great. Mac, do you have any to add?

Mac Prichard:

I just want to support your point that it’s so important to keep improving our skills. One trend I see in social media platforms is tools that used to be standalone applications increasingly are being incorporated into Facebook, Instagram, and the other big popular apps. As we reach out to people online, taking advantage of those tools gets a lot easier, because they’re much more intuitive, and simpler, and easier to use than say Photoshop even three to five years ago.

Cecilia Bianco:

I agree. With some of the platforms like Canva is basically Photoshop, but it’s free. It’s very easy to use. You can teach yourself in an hour. It can be really intimidating to try and learn those tools, but I think if you set small goals like signing up for new newsletters, or mastering a new skill every month, it becomes a lot more manageable.

Mac Prichard:

That’s excellent advice, breaking tasks down into smaller achievable pieces, whether it’s mastering a new skill or taking the next step in your job search.

Ben Forstag:

I know we’ve talked about social media tools in previous episodes, but let me just ask you Cecilia. If you had to pick the top three that someone should be comfortable using, what would those top three social media tools be?

Cecilia Bianco:

I would definitely pick at least one photo editing, one video editing, and then probably one management tool. Canva for photos, iMovie for videos, and maybe HootSuite or the new Edgar social media management tool would be key.

Ben Forstag:

Thanks.

Mac Prichard:

Great advice. It’s very telling and right on target that two of the three you mentioned were visual tools, because so much online communication and so much media work now is all about visuals except of course this podcast. There is that.

These segments by Ben and Cecilia are sponsored by the Mac’s List guides. We’re the publisher of a new book, here at Mac’s List. It’s called land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond. You’ll find in our guides, the tools you need to get the job you want. We tackle the questions that are on your mind. How do I find about hidden jobs? What can I do to standout when I’m competing against dozens of other people for the same position? What do I need to do next to manage my career? In our book, there are eight chapters. You’ll find experts who share insight or knowledge about how they learn about jobs that are never posted, and what you can do to interview and negotiate like a pro. Check it out for yourself. You can download the first chapter of the book for free. Just go to our website. The address is macslist.org/macslistguides.

Steve Potestio co owns Mathys and Potestio. It’s a recruitment firm for the creative and digital industries. His company has offices in Portland, Austin, and Los Angeles. Steve knows how recruiters work. He’s worked with more than 100 agencies, and he’s helped place thousands of professionals into jobs. He’s also been a copywriter, a graphic designer, a project manager, an account manager, and he was the director of operations for a large digital agency during the dot-com era. Steve, that’s quite a background.

Steve Potestio:

Thank you.

Mac Prichard:

Thank you for joining us. Let me start with one example I think people have in their heads when they think about recruiters. I’m going to into the way back machine. There is a wonderful movie starring Stockard Channing. It’s called the Business of Strangers. It came out in the early 1990’s. It’s about corporate intrigue, and it reflects popular ideas about corporate culture in those years.

In the plot, Channing is a high-powered executive. She hears rumors that she’s about to lose her job. The first thing she does is she picks up the phone, and she calls a recruiter. They both traveled to an airport. They have a meeting in the lounge. He brings his briefcase, and he reaches into it. There he has job openings that pay six-figure salaries. They talk about what position she might take next if she indeed loses her position inside the company.

That’s one way people think of recruiters. What would you say to that popular image, Steve?

Steve Potestio:

I’m laughing because if that was the case, that would be cool that we just have a briefcase full of jobs. That’s cool. That is I think a common misperception of our industry. We are actually out there beating the bushes every day trying to build relationships with companies so that we do in fact have opportunities. We’re not walking around with briefcases full of them. We’re not having any clandestine meetings.

Actually, a good recruiter would probably do a little bit more than the recruiter in the movie. That is really establishing a relationship with the individual, and talking about their needs and what they’re looking for, and what’s a good fit for them prior to opening up that briefcase, and just start trotting out a bunch of jobs.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s put aside the Hollywood image. Let’s talk about how the business really works. Tell us about the recruitment business and how you look for candidates, and what you’re looking for.

Steve Potestio:

One thing about a recruiter to realize is the recruiter serves two masters. On one side is the individual, the candidate that is looking for a job. On the other side is the hiring company, the business client. A good recruiter is trying to build relationships, and understand both equally so that they are able to put the two together successfully.

Generally, the client company, the hiring company is the firm that pays our bills if you will. It is natural that recruiters could lean toward that side, and really focus more on servicing that side. I think the best recruiters really walk right down the middle of the street.

Mac Prichard:

You talked about the firms that you work for. They’re the ones who are paying you. How do you get paid? I know there are different forms of compensation for recruiters.

Steve Potestio:

There are different types of recruitment. There is different types of, I guess, logistical types of jobs. You’re going to see recruiters that work on full-time salary positions only. You’re going to see recruiters that will also work on contract type assignments, and then recruiters that will work on both.

Some of it is what situation are you looking for as an individual, and then finding the recruiter that works within those situations. If you’re looking for a full-time job, the recruiter is paid if a candidate that they have introduced is selected and hired by that client company. That client company will pay that recruiter or recruiting firm a fee for having found that individual. Recruiters work on what’s called contingency placements. They do not get paid until they have successfully placed someone into a job.

Mac Prichard:

I think the other approach is called the retainer. Can you talk about the differences between a firm that works on retainer versus contingency? Is there any advantage to a job seeker to work with one firm over another?

Steve Potestio:

Being a good recruiter, the candidate probably won’t necessarily know the difference if that recruiter is on a retainer or on a contingency. That should be something that they don’t really necessarily even have insight into.

A retained search generally is limited to executive level, C level types of positions. Most companies will not pay for a retained search if they are looking for staff level or management level unless again it’s an executive suite level position. For example, in my business, we haven’t had a retained search in probably five years.

Mac Prichard:

I’m often asked when I meet with people informational interviews, and this is a question Cecilia who talks to our community all the time also receives: how do you approach a recruiter? Getting back to that image of the fellow with the briefcase, even if that’s not the reality, there are advantages in having a relationship with the recruiter. Walk us through how someone should find someone in their field, and how they might approach a recruiter.

Steve Potestio:

One of the most important things is finding someone in your field. The reason that is so important is because the recruiter should understand you, and your background, and your experience better than someone who may be has not been exposed to the type of work that you do.

Finding someone that understands the type of work that you do is pretty key. They should then also have a client business hiring company relationships in that same industry. They’re going to be potentially more equipped to be able to assist you. Then it’s just a matter of reaching out to that person, whether it’s LinkedIn or email or a phone call.

Again, I reference maybe good recruiters and maybe not so good recruiters, but I think a good recruiter is somebody who is looking out for your best interest, and maybe willing to talk to you even if they don’t have something immediate that potentially fits their needs or your needs, an immediate potential job opportunity fit.

A recruiter should invest the time to meet with you, get to know you, because they may have that opportunity for you in one week, or one month, or three months. Some recruiters fall into the trap of only working on what’s in their immediate workload, and not looking down the road.

Mac Prichard:

Look for a way to establish a long-term relationship with the recruiter. Let’s back up Steve. I’m just thinking of our listeners. They love actionable ideas. They want practical instruction about concrete steps they can take next.

Imagine that one of our listeners is sitting in front of a computer. They want to find the recruiter in their field. What do they do next? Do they go to Google? Do they go to LinkedIn? Walk us through how you would actually identify say a recruiter in your field? I know you work with digital creatives, designers, writers, and similar professions.

Steve Potestio:

On my LinkedIn account, I have an ability to do advance searches. If you don’t have that ability, I think you have to pay for that. I would go to Google, and I would Google and find out the companies. Then I would go to LinkedIn, and I would look at the company profiles, and I would look at the recruiter profiles, and again, trying to find individuals or recruitment firms that specialize in your area.

Mac Prichard:

I’m a writer. I sit down, and I Google executive recruiters, or recruiters, writers, the community where I live in, whether it’s Portland, Oregon, Chicago. I know you have offices in Austin and Las Vegas as well. Up pops the name of several firms and recruiters, how do I approach these people? Do I send an email? Do I make a phone call? What’s the practical way of doing that?

Steve Potestio:

I’ll back up again too. The first thing that you should be doing is looking at your own toolbox, and making sure you’re ready to contact the recruiter. That recruiter, one of the first things they’re going to do is they’re going to examine your resume. They’re going to examine your background. They’re going to go on to your LinkedIn profile. If they see things that are a mess, or they’re not seeing the type of professional that they feel that they can comfortably represent, they may be less inclined to respond to your inquiry. Again, a good recruiter and a good recruitment firm will respond to every single person that reaches out to them, but many don’t.

Mac Prichard:

What is helpful to you as a recruiter? What kind of requests do you like to receive? After people have paid attention to the basics, and they put their LinkedIn profile in order, do you like to get a phone call, an email? What works best?

Steve Potestio:

An email works best because that enables the recruiter or the recruitment firm to take a closer look at the individual’s background, and to really assess their ability to help that person. A phone call, they’re still going to ask for some time to dig a little deeper into the individual’s background. I don’t want to discourage people from not picking up the phone, but the recruitment firm really needs to evaluate their ability to assist the individual.

If they don’t feel like the individual has the right background, and they in turn don’t have the right client base to assist that individual, they should hopefully be pointing them in a different direction. A lot of it is really evaluating their ability to help that person.

Mac Prichard:

That’s the best way to approach you. What mistakes do you see people make when they attempt to work with recruiters?

Steve Potestio:

I don’t know the mistakes that they make when they initially reach out, but I think people need to have realistic expectations of what a recruiter or a recruitment firm can do for them. We cannot manufacture job opportunities for them. We may have that briefcase full of job openings, but if none of those job openings match that individuals’ background and what they’re looking for, then it doesn’t matter that we have a briefcase full of job openings. They’re not the ones for you. People just need to be realistic that yes, we are out there doing everything we can to build relationships with clients so that chances are greater that we may have opportunities for you, but it’s never a given.

Mac Prichard:

A number of possibilities, people can approach you all, begin to build a relationship. There might be a suitable opening, and it might actually lead to a job offer. In other instances, people may go down that path, and not get an offer, or there may not be openings at the moment. For those who don’t get a job out of this process, what’s the best way to build and maintain a long-term relationship with the recruiter?

Steve Potestio:

I’m glad you asked that. I’ve been doing this, gee, longer than I’ve carried a [inaudible 00:27:29] over close to 20 years. Smart candidates and smart recruiters do look at it as a long-term ongoing proposition. There are many people that I have placed into jobs. They have in turn called me and asked me for new hires for their department or their company. In turn a couple of years down the road, they may be a candidate again.

A good recruiter would want to invest that time and would want to keep tabs on your career. I think being a good candidate working with the recruiter, you keep that recruiter up to date in terms of what you’re doing on your own. Again, a recruiter or a recruiting firm is one avenue that you should be pursuing. It’s definitely something to pursue, but it’s only one avenue in your job search.

Mac Prichard:

I’m glad you made that point, because I think sometimes people tend to put all of their eggs in one basket, whether it’s focusing on a recruiter or one opportunity at one organization, which could be attractive, but you’d never know what might work out. It’s always good to be pursuing how to find several different opportunities.

Steve Potestio:

What happens when you don’t is it’s the old image of the person at home waiting for the phone to ring on Friday night to see if they’re going to get that one date that they’ve been after. That one person doesn’t call. Will stay home for the night?

Maybe that’s a bad analogy, because then that means that person is pursuing many, many, many potential suitors. Maybe that’s a bad analogy, but at the same time, the job seeker does need to pursue many different avenues unless they want to just be in a long and prolong job search.

Mac Prichard:

That’s an excellent point to stop at. Steve, how can people learn more about you and find you online?

Steve Potestio:

Our website is a great way to connect with us. We actually are also very active on social media. We have a very vibrant Facebook page. We do a lot of tweets. Our website actually posts a lot of information that is similar to Mac’s List geared toward professional development and helping people. Really, that’s the best way to connect with all of the various channels that we are trying to put information and content out to.

Mac Prichard:

That’s terrific. Thank you for your time Steve.

Steve Potestio:

Thank you Mac. I appreciate it.

Mac Prichard:

We’re back in the studio with Ben and Cecilia. There’s a lot of food for thought there from Steve, wasn’t there?

Ben Forstag:

There was.

Cecilia Bianco:

Definitely a lot of questions I had about recruiters, he covered it all.

Mac Prichard:

I just want to thank you all for nodding knowingly. I expect you don’t know who Stockard Channing is.

Ben Forstag:

No idea.

Cecilia Bianco:

I have no idea.

Mac Prichard:

You had to be there back in the 1990’s. She was huge.

Ben Forstag:

I was there just, I guess, not paying attention to movies.

Mac Prichard:

I went too far too many movies. Actually, I was looking up this movie. I couldn’t find it in the Wikipedia. I had to find it elsewhere. It’s obscure, but well worth the watch. It does underscore a popular image we have of recruiters. I think Steve has helped us understand that working with the recruiter can be valuable, but you don’t want to rely just on recruiters.

Ben Forstag:

I thought the most interesting was how recruiters get paid. I didn’t really know that much about recruiting. I always had this vague idea that they would take a percentage of my salary. I don’t know where I got that notion, but it’s good to know that the job seeker is not the person who’s paying for that service. It’s usually the employer.

Cecilia Bianco:

I agree. I have that question too. I’ve always wondered what the actual breakdown was. It was interesting to hear exactly where the money goes and how they make their money, because it seems in my opinion that recruiters usually cater a lot to the job seeker, but really, their paying customer is the employer.

Mac Prichard:

One thing to keep in mind if you’re contacted by a recruiter. Steve talked about this. The recruiters that are hired on contingency, a company may work with two or three recruiters for the same position, so a recruiter can be an advocate for you. If however you don’t get hired or one of the candidates doesn’t get hired, they don’t get paid. It can be a tough business.

Again, working with the recruiters can be rewarding, and we encourage our listeners to explore that. Steve had some very practical ideas about next steps you could take if you want to do that.

Thank you for listening. We’ll be back next week with more tools and tips you can use to find your dream job.

In the meantime, as always, visit us at macslist.org. You can sign up there for our free newsletter, where you’ll find more than 100 new jobs every week. If you like what you hear on our show, help us out by leaving a review and a rating at iTunes. We’re determined to crack the top 10 list in the career section of iTunes. To do that, we need your help. Please take a moment, and we’d appreciate it. This will help others discover our show and share the information. Thanks for listening.

Finding a job can take a lot of work. But what if you could get in front of a headhunter–someone who is paid to find great employees? Like a fairy godmother, couldn’t a recruiter make your wish for a dream job come true? And by doing so, save you a lot of time and effort?

The truth is, a good headhunter or recruitment agency can make a big difference in your job search, but they can’t do it all.

This week’s guest, Steve Potestio, is a long-time executive recruiter who has has worked closely with more than 100 organizations and helped place thousands of professionals into jobs. He discusses his experience in the business and shares tips on how job-seekers can best take advantage of the services offered by recruitment agencies.

This Week’s Guest

Steve Potestio co-owns Mathys+Potestio, a recruitment firm for the creative and digital industries. His company has offices in Portland, Austin, and Los Angeles. He’s also been a copywriter, a graphic designer, a project manager, an account manager, and he was the director of operations for a large digital agency during the dot-com era.

Resources from this Episode